Vast swaths of Malaysia's eastern coast were under water yesterday in the country's worst flooding in a decade, which has left at least seven people dead and forced more than 15,000 people from their homes, officials said.
At least four other people were feared dead after being washed away in fast-flowing currents.
The waters submerged much of the Kelantan State capital of Kota Bahru, where medics at hospitals flooded with knee-deep water were hastily evacuating patients -- some of them on gurneys with their intravenous drips still attached.
Those feared drowned included a sick woman who was trapped in her car on a flooded road.
The woman's husband, Zuzuki Mat Sari, said he heard his wife shouting "I am going to die," as the vehicle quickly went under Saturday night on a country road. He had abandoned the car minutes earlier with his two young sons to take them to safety, the New Straits Times newspaper reported yesterday.
"I turned around and the car was gone," Zuzuki, 36, was quoted as saying.
The car was found 25 meters away the next day but there was no trace of the woman -- only her wristwatch and ring were found in the car, it said.
Officials said raging river waters, fed by incessant rains during the last week, have burst their banks in three eastern states, turning land into lakes across the east coast.
The worst affected is Kelantan State near the Thai border. Seen from an aircraft as it landed, the capital Kota Bahru appeared about 60 percent under water.
Its streets were filled with up to 2.5m deep water, forcing people to flee homes. Only the roofs of some houses were visible and many huts were submerged with their top ends sticking out of light brown muddy waters.
Five people including a Thai man and an Indonesian man drowned in Kelantan, said Yuzirul Anuar, an official of the state flood operations control room. A teenage boy died in neighboring Terengganu State and an Indonesian man drowned in Pahang, other officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Nearly 9,000 people were evacuated to relief centers on higher ground in Kelantan and 6,186 people were evacuated in Terengganu and Pahang, officials said. Many roads have become impassable. The cost of the damage has not yet been assessed.
Meanwhile, about 66 people were stranded in the Endau-Rompin forest park near the southern border of Pahang state after floods cut off access bridges to the area.
Park Director Hashim Yusoff said the stranded people included 40 indigenous villagers who live in the park, 10 park staff, eight research students from a local university, and eight staff members from a nearby estate.
Hashim said the group were in contact with the outside through radio and telephones.